Sands Bethlehem Casino One Step Closer to Final Sale in Pennsylvania with Five-Year License Renewal

Posted on: June 3, 2018, 07:22h. 

Last updated on: June 3, 2018, 07:22h.

The Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has been handed a five-year extension to its gaming license, which is one of the last barriers to completing its sale from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to Alabama-based Wind Creek Hospitality.

Sands Bethlehem five-year license renewal
Situated near the remains of what was once the epicenter of America’s Rust Belt, the Sands Bethlehem casino will soon be under new ownership. (Image: Morning Call file photo)

The seven-member Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) unanimously approved the renewal at a public hearing on Wednesday. The license continuation now sets the stage Adelson to let go of the gaming venue, a process that has been in the works for more than a year.

Pulling out of PA

If all goes according to plan, Adelson will divest himself of his company’s last remaining American casino outside of Nevada.

In March of this year, reports surfaced that the Sands had a deal in place to sell the Bethlehem property to Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians for $1.3 billion. A tribe subsidiary called Wind Creek Hospitality would be listed as the official buyer. Before that, MGM Resorts had been rumored to be interested in the casino, but by May 2017, that deal had fallen apart.

It’s no coincidence that Adelson is pulling up stakes in Pennsylvania just as the state is making a major splash in the online gambling market. The octogenarian is a noted opponent of internet gaming, once saying that he would spend “whatever it takes” to ban its very existence in the US.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania made the ultimate push in 2017 to join the online gaming industry. Governor Tom Wolf signed a massive gambling expansion package last October. It not only allowed for more brick-and-mortar casinos, but also laid out the framework for online poker, daily fantasy sports, and internet casinos in the state.

Lottery games went live online in Pennsylvania in May, and lawmakers are working on regulations which could see the state join shared liquidity for online poker with New Jersey and Nevada.

It presents a timely opportunity for Adelson to sell the Sands Bethlehem, which his company first opened in 2009. The $1.3 billion from the expected sale of Las Vegas Sands’ smallest casino will allow the company to focus on its main priority these days: continuing to expand its footprint in Macau and around the world.

LVS owns five casinos in the Chinese gaming enclave city and recently announced it would invest $1.1 billion in renovating and rebranding its Sands Cotai Central resort.

Waiting on Sale Details

Despite the elephant in the room, no reference to the pending sale was made during Wednesday’s town hall meeting where the casino had its license renewed, according to Pennsylvania news site The Morning Call.

Instead, casino reps spent most of the meeting talking about recent renovations to the gaming venue floor and the increasing level of competition in the area market.

The Sands Bethlehem is currently the closest option for New Yorkers who want to play live table games. But more competition may be on the way. Earlier this week, former Sands suitor MGM Resorts bought the Empire City Casino in Yonkers, New York, and lawmakers could allow live table games there as soon as 2021.

So while no new details on the sale have been provided to the public, the deal is still expected to close later this year. Before that can happen, regulators need to fully vet the potential new owners and ensure they can meet the $1.3 billion price tag.

Then the PGCB will have to approve the sale at a public hearing before the deal is officially completed. With the latest license renewal, the path to that final transfer is a good bit shorter.